The Calgary Flames had a Cinderella year this season and in my opinion it wasn’t a fluke. They have a solid team, while building through the draft and believing in the young players they choose. I believe that this offseason they should be trying to solidify the core players that got them where they were this season. Guys like Mark Giordano, Kris Russell, etc. Right now the Flames team is pretty solid, the forwards aren’t amazing, like lets say Tampa Bay, but they’re good. Led by Johnny Gaudreau, whose contract expires after this season, Sean Monahan and Jiri Hudler. The prospect forwards are looking real promising, Sam Bennett, Micheal Ferland, Morgan Klimchuk, and Emile Poirer.
There has also been talk of bringing in a big power forward, such as Milan Lucic. There are a lot of people the Flames could possibly pick up. Mike Green, who is from Calgary would probably be the most ideal free agent to bring in.
Possible free agent pick ups: Cody Franson, Mike Green, Antoine Vermette, Justin Williams.
Possible trades: Milan Lucic
Milan Lucic – Playing Time Overview
The Big Bad Bruins identity is all Milan Lucic wants from Boston. “It’s that Big Bad Bruins team, that championship team. I think I speak for everyone when I say that’s what we want to see with this team moving forward. That’s my take on it.” Whether or not that’s ideal for the Lucic or the organization is another story, but Lucic has certainly personified the “team identity”. Now through eight seasons in his career Lucic has averaged 17 goals, 43 points, 97 PIMs, and 143 hits per season. Lucic also has one season left at $6M towards the cap coming into his age 27 season
|Assets:||Has outstanding size and strength. Is underrated in terms of his offensive skills and instincts. Can dominate a hockey game in the corners or with big hits. Can be a nasty, intimidating presence; he’s also excellent when he drops the gloves.|
|Flaws:||His skating is only average. He’s also not a natural goal-scorer–when he does score, it’s often because of sheer determination and a reckless drive through traffic. Can at times put his team in a hole by being too aggressive.|
|Career Potential:||Excellent, prototypical old-school power forward.|
2014-15: $6 million.
2015-16: $6.5 million.
Mike Green – Playing Time Overview
|Assets:||Is a tremendous skater and a natural point producer from the back end. Often plays like a fourth forward on the ice, as he places constant pressure on opposing defenses. Packs an excellent wrister. Likes to initiate body contact. Can quarterback a power play with aplomb.|
|Flaws:||Is mistake-prone in the defensive zone, which negates some of his overall effectiveness. Still needs to add a little more consistency and discipline to his game. Injuries have become a problem for him recently, so he isn’t nearly as dynamic since then.|
|Career Potential:||Excellent offensive defenseman, when healthy.|
If the Flames weren’t finishing better than every team in the Western Conference, they most likely would not have had enough to hold off the challenge from the L.A. Kings, a team they beat for a playoff spot by two points.
There is no need to apologize for defying the odds. Many teams can’t afford to be picky about how they get to the playoffs, but if a team is going to be consistently competitive, year after year, they can’t do it while holding 44% of shot attempts – that requires the persistence of outlier percentages and it just doesn’t happen.
So, the quest for the Flames this summer is to recognize their strengths and build upon them, while making tactical and personnel changes that will allow the Flames to improve their puck possession game.
With a core that includes a healthy Mark Giordano, T.J. Brodie, Sean Monahan and Johnny Gaudreau, as well as top prospect Sam Bennett on the way, the Flames have some quality pieces. It’s a matter of surrounding them with more support so that the trip to the 2015 Playoffs can be the start of something positive long-term, rather than a statistical aberration that can’t be repeated.
Brad Treliving/Bob Hartley
FREE AGENT FORWARDS
Calgary’s leading scorer last season, Jiri Hudler broke out for a career-high 76 points, forming a great combination with Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan. The interesting part in Hudler’s case is that, as a 31-year-old going into the last year of his contract, he’s eligible for a contract extension, but how many years will the Flames want toINVEST in him? He’s coming off the best year of his career and paying for that into his mid-thirties could be a risky proposition. At the same time, how does a team simply cut bait with their leading scorer?
The Flames’ success of last season wouldn’t have been remotely possible without the arrival of Johnny Gaudreau, the diminutive playmaker who had a 64-point rookie season. His creativity and confidence with the puck make him a highlight-reel player, not unlike Patrick Kane in Chicago, a smallish player who knows how to manoeuvre in traffic and then dazzles when he gets into the open ice.
Sean Monahan has quickly developed into the franchise centre that the Flames need, scoring 31 goals and 62 points as a 20-year-old last season, anchoring the top unit between undersized wingers Hudler and Gaudreau. Monahan’s improvement from his rookie to sophomore season was significant, and it has pushed him to the No. 1 centre spot rather quickly.
Injuries are becoming a standard for winger David Jones, who has missed 64 games over the past three seasons, and his ice time per game was down to 14:20 last season, his lowest since 2008-2009, but he was productive enough in that role. As a top-nine forward who could scored 15-20 goals, depending on health, Jones can be a useful complementary contributor.
There have been some ups-and-downs in Joe Colborne’s career path and he managed just two goals in his last 34 games of the regular season, before adding one highlight-reel goal in 11 playoff games, so his production isn’t ideal, but the 25-year-old skilled forward may be worth a look in a complementary offensive role, but he has to generate more shots – among 359 forwards to play at least 500 minutes at 5-on-5 last season, he ranked 349th with 3.91 shots/60 minutes.
Mason Raymond got off to a good start for the Flames last season, scoring five goals in seven games, before tallying seven in his last 50 games. As the season wound down, he was hard-pressed to keep a spot in the lineup and didn’t play much when he was included. With two seasons remaining on his contract, the Flames might try to find another team looking for a speedy top-nine forward.
Markus Granlund is still a prospect, but has 21 points in 55 NHL games and 63 points (34 G, 29 A) in 73 AHL games, so he’s been productive enough to hold a regular role, but it is kind of crowded among Calgary’s bottom six forwards.
While he’s paid well for what his role has become, that of a fourth-line forward logging 11 minutes per game, Matt Stajan did play a bigger part for the Flames late in the season and in the playoffs, so his experience and leadership (to say nothing of decent possession numbers given a heavy dose of defensive zone starts) does hold some value for a relatively young group of Flames forwards.
Providing muscle on the Flames’ fourth line, Brandon Bollig scored one goal in 62 games, before adding two in 11 playoff games, so including him in the lineup requires a certain amount of faith in the intangible value of having his physical presence in the game.
An industrious winger who had 19 points in 121 games before last season, Lance Bouma erupted for 16 goals and 34 points. He also had subpar possession stats and had an on-ice shooting percentage that isn’t sustainable, so expectations have to be for some regression to kick in next season, but if Bouma can play a top-nine role and contribute a little offence, then that’s a legitimately positive development.
A valuable two-way player who has typically been better in possession terms than outright scoring, Mikael Backlund is good for the Flames to use in tough minutes, taking on challenging checking assignments with defensive zone starts, thereby freeing up other centres for more offensive production.
Josh Jooris earned a regular role as a rookie with the Flames, though his production waned and ice time decreased in the second half of the season. There are a lot of forwards in the mix for a bottom-six role with the Flames, so having the versatility to kill penalties and play centre and wing could help Jooris’ chances.
Blazing fast Paul Byron had his season cut short by injury but, when healthy, he’s been a useful player for the Flames, putting up 40 points in 104 games over the past two seasons.
Considered a decent prospect, Micheal Ferland battled his way into the Flames lineup last season and, by the time the playoffs rolled around, he was a vital contributor. He has the size to play a physical hitting game, but also goes hard to the net and can knock in a few pucks. He only has 26 NHL games to his credit, but it would be a surprise if he’s not part of next year’s lineup.
Not only are the likes of Granlund, Jooris and Ferland among the prospects battling for regular jobs, but Sam Bennett seems likely to have a spot too. The fourth overall pick in the 2014 Draft missed much of last season recovering from shoulder surgery, but didn’t look out of place in Calgary’s playoff lineup, so he should be a full-time pro next season.
The Flames have enviable depth, maybe even too many NHL-calibre forwards at the bottom of the depth chart, but could use more high-end talent. I had the Flames acquiring Milan Lucic, a winger that could play in the top six with the kind of grit and toughness that would seem to fit well with the kind of team Calgary has put together, but if not Lucic, the Flames should be actively seeking upgrades to their forward group. Maybe even adding someone like a Justin Williams, Antoine Vermette, Mike Ribeiro, or Brad Richards.
FREE AGENT DEFENCE
Veteran blueliner Dennis Wideman, who already played quite a bit, was pressed into heavy minutes once Mark Giordano was hurt and finished with 19 points (3 G, 16 A) in his last 18 games before adding seven assists in 11 playoff games. The 32-year-old has always been a strong puckhandler with good offensive instincts, but he also set a career-high with 184 blocked shots.
Over the past two seasons, Mark Giordano has emerged as a Norris-Trophy-calibre defenceman, with Erik Karlsson the only blueliner contributing more points per game than the Flames captain. He’s also in a class of his own when it comes to relative possession stats. While that’s reflective of his fellow defenders in Calgary, it’s also an indication of how much better the Flames are when Giordano is on the ice.
With that in mind, Giordano is also heading towards the last season of his current contract and will be looking a contract extension, but it will be interesting to see how long the Flames invest in the guy that has clearly been their best player the past two seasons. He’s playing the best hockey of his career, but turns 32 in the first week of October, which means he will be 33 by the time he’s playing under a new contract.
T.J. Brodie is emerging as a premier defenceman in his own right, thriving when used in tandem with Giordano, as both aggressively jump into the attack, but finding it tougher sledding when Giordano has been out of the lineup. Nevertheless, 25-year-old Brodie is a smooth skater and puck-mover who had a career-high 41 points last season.
Partnered with Wideman, Kris Russell met a similar fate last season, taking on more minutes in Giordano’s absence. He ended up with a career-high 34 points and led the league with 283 blocked shots, though there is obviously some concern about being in position to block that many shots, which happens when controlling just 43% of the shot attempts at even strength.
The Flames paid too much for Deryk Engelland in free agency last summer and he spent most of the season on the third pairing, but once Giordano was injured, Engelland played nearly 20 minutes per game and that’s asking too much of him. He’s a tough role player, but playing Engelland in a top-four role on defence for any serious length of time exposes his deficiencies.
A neck injury limited Ladislav Smid to just 31 games last season. He’s a shot blocker who will play a physical game, but also consistently has poor possession numbers.
The Flames have the cap room that they could invest in another quality veteran defenceman. Even an older vet like Francois Beauchemin, Paul Martin or Barret Jackman could add stability on a moderate-term deal. They could also try to bring in Christian Erhoff, Mike Green, or Cody Franson
|NAME||GP||W||L||T||SV%||EV SV%||ADJ SV%||’15-16 CAP|
FREE AGENT GOALTENDER
|NAME||GP||W||L||T||SV%||EV SV%||ADJ SV%||’14-15 CAP||STATUS|
Jonas Hiller provided a steadiness in goal for the Flames last season, and his .918 save percentage was his best since 2010-2011. The 33-year-old has been a little better than average for much of his career and that’s good enough going forward while the Flames wait for their goaltending prospects to develop.
If Karri Ramo tests the free agent waters, that could open the door for Joni Ortio to step into the backup role. Ortio, 24, has appeared in 15 games for Calgary over the past two seasons, with an .899 save percentage, so he needs to be better than that, but also has a .919 save percentage in 74 AHL games over the past two seasons.
They could look at a goalie like Robin Lehner, if they were still wondering what to do about the goaltending situation in Calgary this season.
|Sam Bennett||C||11||11||13||24||+4||Kingston (OHL)|
|Emile Poirier||RW||55||19||23||42||+7||Adirondack (AHL)|
|Morgan Klimchuk||LW||60||34||46||80||+39||Brandon (WHL)|
|Jon Gillies||G||39||0.930||Providence (HE)|
|Joni Ortio||G||37||0.912||Adirondack (AHL)|
|Tyler Wotherspoon||D||61||2||22||24||-1||Adirondack (AHL)|
|Bill Arnold||C||61||15||23||38||+2||Adirondack (AHL)|
|Brandon Hickey||D||41||6||11||17||+19||Boston University (HE)|
|Max Reinhart||C||69||15||24||39||-11||Adirondack (AHL)|
|Patrick Sieloff||D||48||2||3||5||-9||Adirondack (AHL)|
15th – Nick Merkley, Colin White, Paul Bittner
The Flames have approximately $46.9M committed to the 2015-2016 salary cap for 16 players.
Two top-six forwards, one top-four defenceman, depth defencemen, prospect defensemen
WHAT I SAID THE FLAMES NEEDED LAST YEAR
Two top-six forwards, veteran checking forward, top-four defenceman, goaltender
Johnny Gaudreau, Josh Jooris, Mason Raymond, Brandon Bollig, Devin Setoguchi, Deryk Engelland, Raphael Diaz, Jonas Hiller
David Jones, Mason Raymond, Josh Jooris, Paul Byron, Drew Shore, Ladislav Smid, Jonas Hiller, Mikael Backlund
POSSIBLE 2015-2016 CALGARY FLAMES DEPTH CHART
|LEFT WING||CENTRE||RIGHT WING|
|Johnny Gaudreau||Sean Monahan||Jiri Hudler|
|Milan Lucic||Sam Bennett||Justin Williams|
|Lance Bouma||Mikael Backlund||Joe Colborne|
|Brandon Bollig||Matt Stajan||Michael Ferland|
|Mason Raymond||Markus Granlund||Josh Jooris|
|Morgan Klimchuk||Drew Shore||Paul Byron|
|LEFT DEFENCE||RIGHT DEFENCE||GOALTENDER|
|Mike Green||Mark Giordano||Jonas Hiller|
|T.J. Brodie||Dennis Wideman||Joni Ortio|
|Kris Russell||Deryk Engelland||Jon Gillies|
|Ladislav Smid||Tyler Wotherspoon||Mason McDonald|
|Patrick Sieloff||Kenney Morrison|